“We got some great goaltending,” McCabe said. “We were lucky. The score didn’t quite dictate how we played. We were up 3-0, but they were outshooting us and outchancing us.”
Tampa Bay, which trailed by three goals in the second period, tied it at 3 when Steve Eminger snapped a 63-game, goal-scoring drought with 2:51 left in the third.
“That’s a game right there that we’re going to build on,” said Lightning goalie Mike Smith, who stopped 33 shots. “Just shows how we can play when we play with passion.”
Tocchet replaced Barry Melrose, who was fired last Friday after he went 5-7-4 in 16 games in his first season with the team.
McCabe put the Panthers up 1-0 from the high slot at 7:50 of the first. Booth made it 2-0 with a power-play goal with 16.3 seconds left in the period.
The Panthers took a 3-0 lead when McCabe scored during a power play from near the blue line at 7:48 of the second.
Vrbata got the Lightning within 3-1 at 14:42 of the second, scoring for the first time in 34 games.
Steven Stamkos, this year’s first overall pick in the NHL draft, assisted on Vrbata’s goal to end a stretch of eight games without a point. The rookie had nine shots.
“It’s just one of those nights where when you’re not winning, those games seem to slip by,” Stamkos said. “We need to find a way to change that. I thought it was our best game in a while.”
Artyukhin cut Tampa Bay’s deficit to 3-2 at 3:44 of the third. It was his first goal since Feb. 9, a span of 39 games.
Tampa Bay’s 52 shots set a team record. The old mark was 51, which came in a 2-1 loss to Florida on Jan. 17, 2004.
“Obviously, we got to be tighter, but we won the game,” Vokoun said. “We’ve been a fragile team. We’ve had some tough times, and the win is as important as anything in this game.”
Eminger also had two assists. … Panthers LW Cory Stillman didn’t play due to concussion-related symptoms. He had played the previous two games after missing three straight after sustaining a concussion on Nov. 2. … Tampa Bay LW Ryan Malone (lower body) missed his fourth consecutive game. He has resumed skating. … Panthers centers Stephen Weiss (groin) and Gregory Campbell (hand) were in the lineup. Both had an assist. … McCabe has scored all three of his goals this season against Tampa Bay.